Cardiff Met secures funding for life-changing cardiovascular research

​04/11/2016

A graphical representation of the left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted into the heart.

From left to right: Dr Barry McDonnell, Professor Paolo Colombo and Dr Eric Stöhr outside the Division of Clinical Cardiology at New York Presbyterian Hospital.  

Cardiff Metropolitan University has secured more than 250,000 Euros from the European Commission's Horizon 2020 fund, to lead a clinical cardiovascular research project in partnership with Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital – a world leading institution in the treatment of severe heart failure.

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Horizon2020 grant will support an exciting research study, the "HIT-LVAD" trial, which will monitor and assess the blood flow in human arteries and the pressure of patients fitted with artificial heart pumps, and provide the specialist knowledge needed to improve risks and long-term health outcomes of patients with heart complications across the world.

Dr. Barry McDonnell, the principal investigator, based at Cardiff Metropolitan University said: "Advanced heart failure is a growing health problem across the UK, Europe and beyond. As a result, a growing number of heart failure patients depend on surgically implanted highly sophisticated, mechanical pumps called Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVAD). The LVAD is a surgically implanted pump that is attached to the heart. The pumps offer long-term support or can be used as a temporary fix as a bridge to a heart transplant operation, and have significantly improved survival rates. However, there are still a number of side effects associated with their use (e.g. Stroke) and very little patient data available in this area."

The project team led by Dr. McDonnell at Cardiff Met, will also work closely with medical device companies in order to help develop and utilise cutting edge technology available to surgeons/physicians tasked with managing and treating heart failure patients with implanted LVADs.

Dr. McDonnell, a senior lecturer in Cardiovascular Physiology at Cardiff Met's Department of Biomedical Sciences is a leading expert in cardiovascular health and was awarded a Santander-funded Mobility Scholarship to visit Columbia University, New York Presbyterian Hospital in 2015. As part of this scholarship, his aim was to develop a working collaboration with world-leaders in heart failure and LVAD implantation. After a successful period of work in 2015 on the Santander funded scholarship, Dr McDonnell and the team were successful in gaining the highly prestigious Horizon 2020, Marie Skłodowska-Curie funding award. This grant will enable Dr McDonnell and his team at Cardiff Met to collaborate further with colleagues in Columbia University over the next three years and develop the clinical evidence and scientific understanding needed to help manage and treat heart failure patients implanted with artificial heart pumps.

As part of the grant, Dr. Eric Stöhr, a lecturer in Cardiac Physiology and Health from the Cardiff School of Health Sciences at Cardiff Met, is currently seconded to Columbia University's Irving Medical Center for two years, in order to take on the role of Global Research Fellow. Dr. Stöhr said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for me as the Global Fellow and the group to work with a world-leading institution in the field of Cardiology. I will be working with a team of world-leading heart failure specialists, academics, patients and industrial partners in order to better understand the risks associated with patients undergoing heart surgery – in particular, those fitted with continuous flow LVADs. Our research project is focussed on improving the clinical understanding of cardiovascular risk and safety of individuals after implantation of the LVADs, and I am very excited about the impact this will make on an international level."

Dr. Stöhr will work closely with Dr. McDonnell at Cardiff Met and Professor Paolo Colombo, Head of Division of Cardiology at Columbia University. Professor Colombo is a world-leading expert in LVAD implantation and is the Medical Director of a team of experts that operates the world's largest and most advanced LVAD programme. 

Professor Colombo said: "This collaborative partnership between Columbia University and Cardiff Metropolitan University is a step towards making great advances in the field of LVAD implantation. The development of research and data around patient care undergoing heart surgery is much needed in order to help develop the relevant technology needed to improve the long-term health of patients undergoing high risk operations such as LVADs. I am confident that our research will meaningfully expand the knowledge of physicians treating these patients."

The data and clinical evidence provided from the work at Columbia University has the potential to impact on patients' clinical care here in Wales, across the UK and internationally. Through collaboration with Professor John Cockcroft (Visiting Professor of Cardiology at Cardiff Metropolitan University and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University), the potential to increase dissemination of the study findings around the UK, Europe and around the world will be maximised.

Dr. McDonnell said: "We are delighted to have been successful in securing this funding. It will be invaluable to us in further developing an already successful partnership with the very prestigious Columbia University and gather cutting-edge data which can be used to improve the lives of heart failure patients undergoing LVAD implantation, all over the world."

European Projects Director at Cardiff Metropolitan University, Huw Hughes said: "I am delighted that a Cardiff Met academic has secured one of just 100 grants of this sort offered annually by the EU on a competitive basis across the whole of Europe. This success further underpins the excellence of the research undertaken at Cardiff Met which was recently rated by 'Times Higher Education' as the highest ranking 'post 1992' University, and 41st overall, in the UK."

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 705219.